Why is Veterans Day always observed on November 11?

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By Mike Sokol

The other morning I saw a Facebook post about the reason that Veterans Day is always observed in November, specifically the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Now, I was never a fan of history class in high school, especially American History. That’s possibly due to the fact that my dad was an American History teacher and I was getting a D in that one class (yes, I was getting A+ grades in physics and chemistry, so not to worry). Somewhere in my past I probably learned why 11/11 at 11 a.m. was a thing, but must have forgotten it.

But when I read this little post about Veterans Day, a lot of my school and family memories came flooding back. You see, I don’t believe we ever forget anything important, we just bury that information somewhere in the deep recesses of our minds.

A little more research came up with this definition: “This holiday marks the anniversary of the 1918 signing of the Armistice, which took place in a railway carriage, between the Allies and Germany. This event marked the end of fighting on the Western Front in the First World War.”

And then I remembered learning that fact some 50 years ago. And soon I was thinking about the importance of this date to my own family history, as well as many of my colleagues and current family members who served and continue to serve in military conflicts around the world.

Grandpa Sokol in WWI trenches

I’ll start with my Grandpa Sokol, who fought in WWI with the Austro-Hungarian army. In his broken English he would recount to us kids (I was probably 6 years old at the time) that he was originally in the cavalry, but after he lost his horse they made him a heavy machine gunner.

He survived the trenches of WWI in some of the most horrible fighting imaginable. Finally he took two bullets in the stomach and laid in the battlefield under of pile of corpses for days until a German Shepherd search dog found him. When he returned home, his country of Hungary had been split up and he lost his property, so he emigrated from Hungary to America on a slow boat in steerage and became a U.S. citizen.

It took him two years of riding the train rails and taking odd jobs to save enough money to bring his wife (my Grandma Sokol) to America, also on a slow boat in steerage. He eventually bought a little 2-acre farm with a tiny house, and mined coal in West Virginia for decades until black lung finally killed him.

Yes, this is where I got my love of music from

And yet, Grandpa Sokol was always happy, and happy to be working. When he wasn’t cutting hay or tending their one-cow farm, he was playing polkas for us kids on his accordion and chasing us around the yard. But he was cool under pressure, so when we came upon a rattlesnake next to where we were playing he calmly picked up a shovel and cut off its head.

There was no complaining about his life, no regrets about his time in the Great War (on the wrong side, as he would say to us kids). And he had the unique experience of meeting Hitler in the trenches before any of his rise to power in the ’30s. Grandpa would tell us kids if he could have known what Hitler would have become, he would have gunned him down on the spot. But at that time Adolph Hitler was only a messenger courier delivering orders to my grandpa.

Dad Sokol in post WWII Japan occupation

And my own father (now 91 years old) served in Japan during the post-WWII occupation. In fact, he was stationed there while my mother was pregnant. And in 1954 there were no ultrasound tests, so she didn’t know she was having twins until the day of. So my brother Joe and I were born without my dad even knowing he had twin sons until a letter from my mom reached him in Japan weeks later.

Yet dad never complained about his time in the service, even joining the National Guard for the next 25 years. And while I never knew a lot of what happened to him in Japan, I watched him in action one time in my teens when we came upon a car wreck on a bridge over a little pond by our house. My dad took immediate charge of the situation, sent us kids running up the hill to our house to phone for an ambulance while he held the crash victim’s head up out of the water so he wouldn’t drown until the ambulance arrived. That day I watched dad save someone’s life – which was in stark contrast to his history teacher persona.

Karl’s dad – sunk in a Liberty ship at 17 years of age

Finally, this spring when I was converting my adjunct classes at Shenandoah University to online Zoom meetings, I was complaining to my friend of 40 years, Karl, about how my students were quickly sinking into depression because they couldn’t go places to party and had to stay in their dorm rooms for weeks. So Karl told me about his own father’s time in the Navy.

I had met his dad many times over the years, but I never knew that he had wanted to forge his birth certificate so he could join the Navy after Pearl Harbor, but his mom signed off allowing him to join on his 17th birthday. He then spent weeks working in the engine room of a Liberty ship, which was finally torpedoed and sunk with him barely escaping on a raft. He eventually went on to get married and had four boys, yet I never heard him complain about his time in the service. It was his duty to serve, and he barely made it back alive.

All gave some, some gave all…

And while our current times are a bit rough, we have to put it all into perspective. These three veterans, whom I’ve personally known, all went through horrific wartime experiences that are hard to imagine – as did millions of other veterans from Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and other conflicts around the globe, many of whom never made it home alive. And if you didn’t know it already, Gary Bunzer, our sorely missed RV Doctor, was a Seabee (Naval Construction Battalion) who served during the Vietnam War.

So, this Wednesday at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, pause for a moment to think about those who fought for our freedom, often making the ultimate sacrifice in the process.

And if you meet a veteran this week, especially one in an RV, make sure you thank him or her for their service and ask about when and where they served. Without their heroic efforts we would probably not be here.

Please add any of your veteran experiences below. I think personal stories are an important part of history that should not be forgotten.

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.

 ##RVT973

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Wayne
14 days ago

I am a 22 year active duty Navy retiree. Following that I worked as a subcontractor in ship design and survivability. During this time I met so many dedicated and patriotic men and women. Vietnam was raging early in my career and I was there twice. I was in theater when USS Frank Evan’s sank and involved in survivor rescue. Later I was involved with both the USS Stark and USS Robert’s damage assessment teams. They received major combat related damage in the Persian Gulf. In all these experiences the crews were resilient, determined and except for the USS Robert’s, saved their ship. I am proud to call them all that revered term “SHIPMATE”

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
14 days ago
Reply to  Wayne

“Thank you for your service” does not adequately express our gratitude, Wayne. We honor you and all veterans every day, and thank you for our freedom. Take care. —Diane at RVtravel.com

Jack P
17 days ago

Thanks Mike. Nicely written and brings back memories.
USPHS Surgeon, 1972-1975, 1978-1982, USPHSR 1982-2000

Roger
18 days ago

Great read Mike! Really enjoyed learning about those brave folks. (Retired USAF – 1996)

Sandy Perley
18 days ago

That was an awesome summary Mike! Thanks for sharing the stories and the reminders about how important our Veterans are to this country!

Dick Hime
18 days ago

Mike, I have been writing a book for several years now titled “Eclectic War Stories from a Vietnam Grunt”. Most of the chapters relate to humorous or entertaining factual stories about being an infantryman (20 years old) in the mountains and jungles of Vietnam in ’68-“69. I’m emailing you one of the chapters titled “Takin’ Care of Business”. It is a little more serious than most of the chapters and addresses “friendly fire” and PTSD and the rigors of war. Thanks for recognizing Veterans and the sacrifices they make. God Bless.

DW/ND
18 days ago

Thank you Mike! Very well done!
(USAF ANG 1953 – 1989 – USAFR 1989-1996 42-07-28)

Ellen L
18 days ago

Al’s Dad was a B-17 pilot stationed in Italy in WW II. He didn’t tell too many stories until he was in his late 80s to the time he passed last year at 97. He became the go-to veteran for his home town of Greenwood, FL and was in the Marianna newspapers as he gave talks at the Legion and VFW. We are grateful that he finally shared his stories with everyone.

Niebeling Robb
18 days ago

Wow. Beautifully written. My wife and I are both USAF Veterans during a time of peace. We also served in the Georgia State Defense Force. God bless all of our Veterans and God bless the USA.

Roger
18 days ago

I too have a line all the way back to WW1 where my grandfather served on the front lines and was Mustard gassed and lost one lung. He then came back home and just few short years led a group of American Legion WW1 vets to help in a flood in Waterloo Iowa where he ended up contracting Pneumonia and passed away leaving my father and uncle without a father. Then just two short decades later my father served 2 years in the pacific and my Uncle spent 2 years in France and Germany in Graves and Registration. He left for Europe with a full head of dark black hair and came back with totally gray hair. He never spoke of his service. Then in the late 60’s I was off to Vietnam and then stayed for a 20 year career. I’ve always said the people who have it the toughest is the families of the soldiers never knowing if they’ll see them again and the children being without a parent while they are serving various tours. God bless our troops and their families!!!

Bobby
19 days ago

I’m a Vietnam veteran. Yesterday I was at the VA for medical and I have to say, the people totally are to be respected too. They are dedicated and really serve too as they could be paid more at other places, but do so as their respect to veterans. It just make my blood boil to hear a comment about “suckers and losers and what was in it for them”. Pathetic, especially for someone in charge of dispatching these soldiers to die for the country as they do it for the love of the country. 17 and 18 year old that they have barely started a life. Many without a chance for a spouse or kids. Please remember us, and stand up to any one so disrespectful as we have endured lately. God bless people who will go when the country calls, knowing they may never see the results of their sacrifice.

Greg Doyle
19 days ago

Please listen at 1100 am, if your lucky, you will hear a Bugler playing Taps in Honor and remembrance for all those men who served in our Armed Services.

Tom
19 days ago

Father – USAF – WWII, Korea, Vietnam – CW4
Oldest Son – USA (MI) – Vietnam, Cold War, Desert Storm – CW3
Middle Son – USA (SF) – Vietnam, Cold War – MSGT
Youngest Son – USA (INF) – Vietnam – Cold War – SSGT – Died of Agent Orange
Wife – USA (ASA) – Cold War – SGT
Our Country – Our Service

John T.
19 days ago

Well done Mike. Excellent writing, along with great pictures! My Dad had 5 sisters and 4 brothers, 10 total. 4 of the 5 boys were in the army. My Dad receiving a battlefield commission in the Battle of the Bulge. His older brother Dominic was fighting in Italy. His oldest brother Nick was a doctor taking care of veterans in the states (All during WW2) and his youngest brother Benny served during the Korean conflict. They were the lucky ones. All came home, didn’t complain, proud to serve, got jobs, married and had kids. I was drafted and served from 1972-1974. I am so proud of my Italian family heritage and to all who have served or are serving our great country. To anyone reading this, please consider volunteering your time to a Veterans hospital or clinic in your area. Some of our Veterans need your help and appreciation every day, not just a couple days throughout the year.

James Menard
19 days ago

Thank you all at RV Travel for the kind words. I am a 1968-70 Army Vietnam Veteran.

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
19 days ago
Reply to  James Menard

Thank you for your service, James. And Welcome Home! Take care, and stay healthy. 🙂 —Diane at RVtravel.com

Ryan McDougal
19 days ago

Thank you,Mike and Chuck for the articles on Vets. My father was in WWII and my son served on the peace keeping force in Bosnia-Kosovo. I served as a Scout Dog handler in Viet Nam with a German Shepherd named Brute. That meant I walked point. But at least I had my dog in front of me. He saved me from many things , not to speak of a deep overgrown well and giant spiders hanging in trees. Proud to have served. Thanks a lot.

Lizzy
18 days ago
Reply to  Ryan McDougal

Ryan, thank you for taking point! I was honored to work with two other handlers from the Vietnam conflict. I believe that Scout Dog handlers in VN were frighteningly cool and courageous. One of the biggest factors of PTS in handlers was the terrible loss of their dogs. There is a wonderful memorial to the dogs at the USS Alabama Battlefield in Mobile, AL. One of my vets dogs is memorialized there. Many blessings.

Patrick Granahan
19 days ago

Mike this brought back memories….some not very pleasant….I served in the Air Force from 1966 to 1970. The Vietnam war was a waste of money and men.
I saw it first hand.
Family service: My father served USAF in WWII and Air Force Reserve for a total of 30 years……my 3 Uncles served in WWII….my brother served in USAF Reserve but never saw combat (just lucky I guess ! ).

Drew
19 days ago

Mike,

Thanks for writing this and many thanks and much appreciation to all who served and to those currently serving.

Patrick Granahan
19 days ago

Mike this brought back memories….some not very pleasant….I served in the Air Force from 1966 to 1970. After graduating from the Defense Information School for Radio and Television Broadcasting I was assigned to duty at the network television station, American Forces Philippine Network…TV8….Clark Air Base.
Clark Air Base was one of several locations to receive the never ending plane loads of wounded from Vietnam. They landed in C-141 hospital planes and were loaded into convoys of buses set up as hospital transports. Clark had a huge hospital and saved many lives…..Clark also had a mortuary that processed an endless stream of victims from Vietnam.

Larry S
19 days ago

Thanks for your family’s story Mike. You asked, so I’ll tell you mine. 

Both my grandfathers served in WWI … on opposite sides. My German grandfather immigrated to the US in the early 1920’s. By the 1940’s he was raising 4 kids in a village outside New York City, where my American grandfather was also living. Their kids went to the same high school and became sweethearts. My grandfathers became good friends. 

In WWII my dad was Navy, a Fighter Director, on the pocket aircraft carrier Petroff Bay. His brother was Army Air Corps, a B-17 pilot. On his last training flight, the plane exploded on take off. I was born while Dad was out in the South Pacific. I was given my Uncle Larry’s name.